Those who began the search all those many years ago were less ascetic, no less desirous, than the hagiographic literature makes out. For them the finale, the ultimate crown, was to be more than trophy-wives and a yacht docked off Cannes.
They were looking for something much bigger. The grandest prize of all. Something called: ‘Immortality’. Also called: ‘The Other Shore’.
The highest intent of Yajna, of ceremonial sacrifice, was the gaining of Immortality [A-mrityu; mrityu, as in mortalis, mort, mortal].
The pivotal verses that birth the first intuition of a formulated Shūnyam in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad are in fact a response by Yājñavalkya to his wife Maitreyi’s query on Death. It’s the opening throw.
In the Tradition of Shūnyam there is no consoling advise proffered that you will ‘Live Forever’ [a thoroughly terrifying idea]. It is rather the issue of your claiming to have been ‘Born’ in the first place.
The summary sound-bite of organized religions runs: ‘Immortality is Eternal Life’. From the ‘In Flesh’ extreme [‘All Day Golf’] to some abstract eternal residence as Spirit by the side of God in a perfected heaven. All religions by and large offer the same plans. You pick the company and policy you like.
At Shūnyam things get a mite confusing. It no longer is clear what ‘Death’ means if you can’t find the file documenting your ‘Birth’.
The Unborn [Ajatham]. The Unarisen [Abhutam]. You might find yourself ‘Immortal’ in spite of yourself.
The venerable Japanese Zen-Master Hakuin, at his moment of Satori:
‘How wondrous! How wondrous! There is no Birth and Death from which one has to escape; nor is there any supreme knowledge [Bodhi] after which one has to strive…all the complications [Koans] numbering 1700 are not worth the trouble of even describing.’